Attention to social class is a major issue confronting the study of ageing in the 21st century, yet it has been significantly overlooked to date.
Social class in later life: Power, identity and lifestyle provides the most up-to-date collection of new and emerging research relevant to contemporary debates on the relationship between class, culture, and later life It explores the interface between class dynamics and later life, whilst acting as a critical guide to the ways in which age and class relations ‘interlock’ and ‘intersect’ with each other, whilst examining the emergence of new forms of inequalities alongside the interrogation of more traditional divisions.
Social class in later life brings together a range of international high profile scholars to develop a more sophisticated, analytical and empirical understanding of class dynamics in later life. It will be of major interest to students and researchers examining the implications of global ageing, and will appeal to scholars concerned with the development of a more critical and engaged gerontology.
How do we sustain agency and identity amidst the frailty of advanced old age? What role does care play in this process?
Pushing forward new sociological theory, this book explores the theoretical and practical issues raised by age and infirmity. It begins with a theoretical examination of the fourth age, interrogating notions of agency, identity and personhood, as well as the impact of frailty, abjection and ‘othering’. It then applies this analysis to issues of care.
Exploring our collective hopes and fears concerning old age and the ends of people’s lives, this is essential reading on one of the biggest social issues of our time.
Population ageing and globalisation represent two of the most radical social transformations that have occurred. This book provides, for the first time, an accessible overview of how they interact.
Ageing has been conventionally framed within the boundaries of nation states, yet demographic changes, transmigration, financial globalization and the global media have rendered this perspective problematic. This much-needed book is the first to apply theories of globalisation to gerontology, including Appadurai’s theory, allowing readers to understand the implications of growing older in a global age.
This comprehensive introduction to globalisation for gerontologists is part of the Ageing in a Global Context series, published in association with the British Society of Gerontology. It will be of particular interest to advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students and academics in this area.
As the population ages, this book reveals how divides that are apparent through childhood and working life change and are added to in later life.
Two internationally renowned experts in ageing look beyond longstanding factors like class, gender and ethnicity to explore new social divisions, including contrasting states of physical fitness and mental health. They show how differences in health and frailty are creating fresh inequalities in later life, with significant implications for the future of our ageing societies.
This accessible overview of social divisions is essential reading for those interested in the sociology of ageing and its differences, diversities and inequalities.
The framing of old age has long been regarded as being relatively unproblematic, given that old age and decline appear inextricably linked. This connection helps to explain why concerns of the latter part of the lifecourse are regarded as the province of health and social policy. Old age was a period marked out by ‘agedness’, something constituted by both physical need and social dependency (Pickard, 2013). Even the most noticeable marker of old age, the state retirement pension, was a product of the widespread recognition that older workers (in the first instance men) needed a substitute income to compensate them for their inability to work, given the physical limitations accompanying ageing (Scheubel, 2013). Similarly, the health problems of the older population were assumed to be intractable chronic conditions that led to institutionalisation of one kind or another (Trattner, 2007; Levene, 2009). The modern welfare state categorically saw older people as a residualised group incapacitated by their social dependency and individual passivity (Carey, 2016).
Social class is a critical factor influencing how people experience later life, and, in particular, the quality of lives they lead. Nevertheless, the sociology of class is firmly located in, and around, the younger and adult ‘territories’ of the life course. Although lip-service is frequently paid to ‘age’ as one of a number of bases of stratification, older people remain excluded from sociological studies of class. When necessary, the class position of older persons is commonly located through their final occupations before retirement. Whilst this strategy may have been valid in the past when most individuals died either before or soon after statutory retirement age, nowadays it is surely limiting to assume that the class career terminates with the onset of retirement, considering that the latter normally signals the start a phase of life characterised by increasing levels of leisure participation and identity reframing. There is no doubt that the expansion of critical gerontology to encompass globalisation, the de-institutionalisation of the life course, and the emergence of a consumer-driven are all highly welcome. Yet, the significance of class in retirement is still a topic that needs addressing.
The view that social class in old age was an epiphenomenon of earlier points in the life course has become less tenable as an explanation of class relationships in the retired population. The connections between consumption, lifestyle and class identity that have made simple inferences of class membership more difficult to assert are multiplied in later life. It could be argued that the nature of post-working life lifestyles and consumption are more defining of the statuses of retired people than their class identities. Although participation in leisure may be more structured by previous opportunities which reflect more closely occupational class, it is still difficult to see how this constitutes a separate dimension of class rather than resources and dispositions. Much more significant to the discussion of class is that retirement from paid employment has become increasingly contingent in terms of when (or how) it occurs and how it is to be financed. This is not to argue that retirement is free of the influences of the past but rather to accept that notions of early retirement have impacted on when post-working life begins and how much participation in the cultural arena of the third age is possible.
Our aim in this chapter is to sketch out an argument that links the material well-being of the retired population in western Europe and North America with issues of power and social class. In the course of doing this, we challenge the continuing representation of older people as members of a residual class dependent on the rest of society and defined by the processes of poverty (Collins et al, 2001). We argue, instead, that later life must be viewed as a fragmented and complex formation fully connected to the dominant economic and cultural processes of late modernity as well as to its contradictions. The history of poverty among older people in industrialised societies has tended to marginalise the importance of later life in framing key aspects of the modern world. It has led to the assumption that issues relating to class and power are reflections of previous class locations rather than present ones with their own dynamics. Later life is no longer defined by its vulnerable position within the lifecycle theory of poverty. It has become secure because of the post-war welfare state. This transformation is creating dilemmas of its own, as policy success is represented as demographic crisis. This crisis is no longer at the margins of social policy. Through the operation of pension fund capitalism, it reaches the very core of social organisation. In this chapter, we chart the changes in later life from its initial residualisation as poverty, through its decommodification by the welfare state, to its current recommodification within second modernity. Throughout, we demonstrate that later life has been shaped by processes of social class and the drive to expand contemporary capitalism.
This chapter outlines the fourth age paradigm. It argues that later life is increasingly losing its coherence as a unitary stage in the life course. Diversity in the discourses and practices surrounding later life abound. The discourses of active and healthy ageing in particular promote an optimistic ‘third age’ culture. This framing of later life as a time for autonomy, self-expression and pleasure creates the conditions for the shadowy background of a fourth age imaginary. It is within this imaginary sphere that all the fears and failures of ageing and agedness are deposited.
This chapter explores the question of agency and personhood as applied to old and infirm persons living under the shadows of the fourth age. It explores the metaphysical and moral conditions that have been claimed to support being a person and possessing personal agency. Personhood, it concludes, is more a place marker for rights than an ontological feature of humanity. By placing responsibility for ‘realising’ or ‘performing’ personhood on to the systems of care, it is argued, the expectation is created that the moral agency of carers can re-instate ‘personhood’ expressed as a set of metaphysical capacities. An alternative strategy based upon the moral imperative of care is proposed that makes no claims for or about ‘personhood’.